AfriSam fraud trial put on hold until Friday

WINDHOEK; The trial of six people arrested in connection with fraud involving over N.dollars 71 million at AfriSam Cement in 2011, was on Tuesday put on hold until Friday.

The trial was scheduled to begin today, but could not proceed because two of the accused persons – Calvin Bezuidenhout and his brother Gerhald Albertus Bezuidenhout – are yet to get a response from the Justice Ministry’s Directorate of Legal Aid on their applications for State-funded defence lawyers.

“This case will stand down until this Friday. We need an official from the Justice Ministry’s Directorate of Legal Aid to come and assist us with regard to the applications for legal aid of the two accused persons,” Judge Christie Liebenberg said as he put the matter on hold.

The trial of the six accused persons is set to run until 28 November 2014.

Windhoek-based defence lawyers Bradley Basson, Gerson Hinda, Gerson Narib and James Diedericks are representing the accused.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Ed Marondedze is appearing for the State.

The group includes key suspect and former AfriSam employee Esmerelda Majiedt.

The other five suspects are Rundu businessman Daniel Batista de Jesus, Calvin Bezuidenhoudt, the latter’s brother Gerhard Bezuidenhoudt, Majiedt’s sister Louise Izaaks, as well as a former partner of Izaaks, James Wilson.

They were arrested in 2011 and 2012 and will altogether face 630 charges of fraud, theft and corruption, according to an earlier decision taken by the Office of Prosecutor-General Martha Ekandjo-Imalwa.

Their case will be dealt with as per the provisions of the Anti-Corruption Act (Act No.8 of 2003), as well as in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Act No. 29 of 2004).

The other five accused persons were arrested and charged a week after Majiedt had been granted bail in the amount of N.dollars 250 000 after she spent a year-and-a-half in police custody at the Wanaheda Police Station in Katutura.

They were added as accused persons in the case in which Majiedt was initially charged alone when they made their first court appearances before Windhoek Magistrate Ingrid Lerato Unengu on 22 October 2012.

On that date, De Jesus was granted bail of N.dollars 1 million, while the other four accused persons were granted bail of N.dollars 100 000 each.

The Namibian newspaper reported earlier that the five accused persons were also told that they had to surrender their passports and any other travelling documents to an investigating officer from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and that they may not communicate or interfere with any of the witnesses in their case.

De Jesus and the Bezuidenhoudt brothers have to report to the police at Rundu every Monday and Friday, while Izaaks and Wilson have to report to the investigating officer at the ACC in the capital every Monday.

In the matter, it is alleged that key accused Majiedt received various payments in her personal capacity from customers of cement manufacturer AfriSam Cement while she was employed by the company.

During the hearing of Majiedt’s bail application in June 2011, it was alleged that suspect deliveries involving cement worth more than N.dollars 71 million had been made to AfriSam customers, without payment for such deliveries being reflected on the company’s books.

However, Majiedt had claimed that other employees of the company knew her computer password, and could have been responsible for the manipulation of AfriSam’s accounting system, which she is being accused of.

She was arrested by ACC investigators in April 2011 on allegations she was involved in corruption, theft and fraud at the company between 2007 and February 2011.

Majiedt’s alleged fraudulent actions are said to have caused the cement supply firm a loss of N.dollars 71 321 647 over a period of five years.

The bail of all the six accused persons was also on Tuesday extended until their next court appearance on Friday.

SOURCE: NAMPA